The Role of Calcium Beyond Bones Development – Check Top 10 Foods and Their Dietary Value
Do you know human body has more calcium than any other mineral. Whenever we hear the word calcium the very first thing that comes to mind is that it is beneficial for bones. And that’s what we have been told right from the childhood. But the fact is, benefits of calcium are beyond just helping in the development and maintenance of the skeletal structure.
Why calcium is important?
Calcium is an essential mineral needed for performing plenty of bodily functions. It not only makes much of your bones and teeth, but also plays a crucial role in maintaining muscular functions, cardiovascular health as well as various functions of the nervous system. Other benefits of having calcium include:
- Calcium facilitates weight loss and help control appetite.
- It is also needed to control the levels of other minerals such as magnesium, potassium and phosphorous in the blood.
- Calcium makes our body capable of optimal nerve transmission and blood clotting.
- It helps the body release hormones and other vital chemicals.
- Foods high in calcium aids in reducing blood pressure
- Several studies suggest that calcium can help prevent various cancer such as colon and rectal cancer.
Dietary recommendation – How much calcium do we need?
Calcium intake depends on various factors including age and gender. Following are the daily recommended dietary intake according to age and sex.
- Birth to 6 months – 200mg/day
- Infants between 7-12 months – 260mg/day
Toddler, children and teens
- Children between 1–3 years - 700mg/day
- Children between 4-8 years - 1,000 mg
- Children and teens between 9-18 years – 1,300mg/day
Adult men and women
- Adults between 19-50 years – 1,000mg/day
- Adult men between 51-70 years – 1,000mg/day
- Adult women between 51-70 years – 1,200mg/day
Calcium intake in pregnancy – Are you getting enough?
When it comes to development of the new life inside, calcium is the most vital of all. Apart from strengthening bones, taking adequate calcium keeps normal functioning of the nervous and circulatory system of both the mother and the developing baby.
A pregnant woman must consume at least 1000 mg of calcium daily during the pregnancy phase. This goal can be easily achieved by drinking two glasses of milk (250ml each) and having 2 cups of yogurt. Some pregnant women might not be able to achieve this daily target. In this case, calcium supplements can fill the gap.
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What are the side effects of low and high calcium intake?
Despite the importance of this essential mineral, a large percentage of the population doesn’t get adequate calcium from the diet. On the flipside, there are instances where high calcium levels can be harmful to health, but it happens in rare cases.
Hypercalcemia – Too much calcium is also harmful for health. Though the possibility of high calcium intake is rare, it can occur due to supplementation, hyperparathyroidism, and interaction of certain drugs. Signs and symptoms of high calcium can be severe fatigue, nausea or vomiting, excessive thirst and urination, stomach pain, constipation, and weakness.
Hypocalcemia – It is the term used for low calcium in the blood. The condition can occur due to vitamin D deficiency, hypoparathyroidism, acute pancreatitis and hyperphosphatemia (abnormal phosphate level). Symptoms may include irregular heartbeat, seizures, muscle cramps and tingling sensation in hands and feet.
While high calcium levels occur rarely, low calcium can be managed by including calcium rich foods in the diet.
Top 10 food sources of calcium
Most of us immediately think of dairy products when we talk about calcium intake. While they are certainly good calcium sources, they are not the only options out there. Below are mentioned top dairy and non-dairy food sources.
Calcium rich foods for dairyholics
Milk is easily accessible and renowned for cheapest and the best source of calcium. Additionally, milk also offers a decent amount of protein, vitamin A and D.
Dietary value – 1 cup of cow’s milk contain 276-352 mg of calcium, depending whether it is non-fat milk or whole milk. Goat milk is also considered a rich source of calcium that provides 327mg of calcium in a cup.
Low-fat mozzarella cheese
Not only a rich source of calcium but also suits your taste buds. However, weight watchers must keep a tab on cheese intake.
Dietary value – 50 grams of cheese gives about 480 mg of calcium.
Available in a variety of flavours, yogurt contains healthy gut bacteria. According to a study, yogurt improves metabolic health and prevent from chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Yogurt can also be an amazing substitute for milk and for people who are lactose intolerant.
Dietary value – 1 cup of plain yogurt contains 450mg of calcium and covers 30 percent of the recommended daily dietary intake.
Cow-free foods rich in calcium
From salads to curry and soups, green leafy spinach has been part of the staple diet of many countries. Spinach is one such leafy vegetable that is rich in calcium.
Dietary value – 1 cup of cooked spinach offers 250mg of calcium. So, it’s high time we should follow rules of Popeye.
Besides tangy in taste, oranges are a great source of calcium. They are also rich in vitamin C which help boosts immune system.
Dietary value – 1 average orange contains 60mg of calcium.
The starchy vegetable is high in calcium and potassium. It might not be on the list of impressive vegetables but it has incredible health benefits. These include anti-aging benefits, promotion of healthy hair, strengthening the immune system, cardiovascular and lung health among others.
Dietary value -1 cup or 156 grams of boiled or cooked turnip gives you about 50mg of calcium.
The health benefits of this dried grape are infinite. It is not only rich in calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium, but also aids in constipation, treat erectile dysfunction, promotes weight gain, treat anemia and reduces hypertension.
Dietary value – 100 grams of seedless raisins provides about 50mg of calcium.
These green crunchy florets are rich source of calcium. The title ‘superfood’ is not given for namesake, but for the high level of vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. These minerals are needed for boosting immune system, strengthening of bones as well as regulating the growth of cells.
Dietary value – 100 grams of broccoli contains 47mg of calcium content.
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Among all the nuts, almonds contain the highest amount of calcium. Besides, you will get healthy fats, fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E. Nuts also improves blood pressure, body fat and prevent from other metabolic diseases.
Dietary value – 10 almonds will give you 35mg of calcium. For increasing the nutritional value, toss these crunchy nuts into your salads.
Besides calcium, the mineral wealth of blackberries includes iron, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. They are also excellent source of amino acids and loaded with essential dietary fiber.
Dietary value – 100 grams of blackberries contains 32mg of calcium. Make a fruit salad or a smoothie, blackberries are always a delight.
If your daily calcium intake is low or if you are pregnant or suffering from some condition, make sure you consult a good dietician. He will help you chalk out personalized diet plan for making the most out of your foods.
1. Calcium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals(2017, March 02). Office of Dietary Supplements read more
2. Calcium: Fact Sheet for Consumers(2016, November 17). Office of Dietary Supplements read more
3. Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age(2015). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases read more
4. What are good sources of calcium?(2016, January 12). NICHD read more